FACE masks have become a key measure in preventing the spread of coronavirus.
And it has become second nature for most of us to ensure we are always wearing a face covering when it's not possible to socially distance.
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Supermarkets are clamping down more on those who flout the rules amid fears they could be hotspots for spreading the virus.
Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's has all said it would ban shoppers who refuse to wear face masks in their stores.
Masks were made compulsory in shops, malls, supermarkets, takeaways and cinemas back in July last year.
It's also law to wear one in a taxi, hairdressers, as well as all indoor places of hospitality – excepted when seated at a table to eat or drink.
These rules brought them in line with public transport, where face coverings have been mandatory since June 2020.
The police have toughened up measures to crackdown on people flouting the rules with first time offenders facing a £100 fine.
Repeat offenders receiving fines on public transport or in an indoor setting will have their fines doubled at each offence.
After the first offence there will be no discount. For example, receiving a second fine will amount to £400 and a third fine will be £800, up to a maximum value of £6,400.
But for some it's not possible to wear a face mask – either due to their age or for medical reasons – and so they are exempt.
1. Health conditions
If you have lung conditions such as asthma then you do not need to wear a face covering or mask.
For people who suffer from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), cystic fibrosis, chronic bronchitis, emphysema or lung cancer, wearing masks can be particularly difficult.
The Government has said people with the "reasonable excuse" do not need to wear them in shops or on public transport.
According to the website Autism Eye, these rules around “reasonable excuses” also cover passengers with autism.
The Government states that if you have a physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability that means you cannot put on, wear or remove a face covering then you are exempt from the rules.
If you need to take the mask off to take medication then you will not be fined.
2. Emergency responders
The Government states that police officers or support officers acting in the course of their duty are not required to wear a mask or covering.
Paramedics and fire officers are also exempt, as are border force officers acting in the course of their duties.
This is, however, a personal choice and all officers are able to wear coverings if they feel it is necessary.
Children under the age of 11 are not required to wear a face mask.
Many young people using public transport carry identification or railcards in order to prove they are entitled to a discounted journey.
The Government states that you do not have to keep your covering on if you are asked to remove your face covering by a police officer or other officials, for example to check your railcard or ID.
4. Travelling with someone who has a hearing impairment
If you are travelling with, or providing assistance to, someone who relies on lip reading to communicate then you don't need to wear a mask.
This is due to the fact that it is vital the person you are travelling with is able to see your face.
The person who has the hearing impairment can still wear a mask.
If both people rely on lip reading to communicate then masks do not need to be worn.
5. If you're at risk or a risk to others
If you are in a store or travelling to avoid injury or escape the risk of harm, and you do not have a face covering with you then you will be not be fined for not using a mask.
You are also exempt if you could put others at risk when removing a mask or covering.
6. Private vehicles or accommodation
If you are allocated a cabin, berth or other similar accommodation while travelling then you can go mask free.
At any time when you are in that accommodation, either alone, or only with members of your own household or a linked household you will not be fined for not wearing a mask.
This is while if you are on board public transport but remain in your private vehicle, for example on a car ferry you are also not required to wear one.
There are also scenarios when you are permitted to remove a face covering.
- If asked to do so in a bank, building society, or post office for identification
- If asked to do so by shop staff or relevant employees for identification, for assessing health recommendations (for example by a pharmacist), or for age identification purposes including when buying age restricted products such as alcohol
- To receive treatment or services, for example when getting a facial
- in order to take medication
- Delivering a sermon or prayer in a place or worship
- If you are getting married in a relevant place
- If you are aged 11 to 18 attending a faith school and having lessons in a place of worship as part of your core curriculum
- While undertaking exercise or an activity and it would negatively impact your ability to do so
- If you are an elite sports person, professional dancer or referee acting in the course of your employment
If you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering:
- you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this
- you do not need show an exemption card
This means that you do not need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering.
However, some people may feel more comfortable showing something that says they do not have to wear a face covering.
This could be in the form of an exemption card, badge or even a home-made sign.
Carrying an exemption card or badge is a personal choice and is not required by law.
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